Bill Murray - in all his glory - steals show at Deere

By Nick MentaJuly 8, 2015, 9:28 pm

SILVIS, Ill.  Bill Murray holed his final putt on the 18th green to what was probably the loudest ovation of the day at the John Deere Classic.

This was shortly after missing his first attempt low and chucking his putter into the bunker. This was immediately after pointing to the lake and demanding to know, “Which one of you knunckleheads drove your tractor out there?” And this was just before kicking playing partner D.A. Points’ bag for no apparent reason.

Asked why he took part in the Deere’s Wednesday pro-am, Murray answered: “The cash.”

Asked again, he answered: "[Tournament director Clair Peterson’s] grammar has really improved. The sentence structures are really promising.”

The real answer is that almost 30 years ago, “a fella” – Murray doesn’t know who – sent him a baseball with the signatures of what Murray thinks were the 1945 Chicago Cubs. The guy told Murray, a Chicago native, that he “didn’t have to say thanks or anything,” he just had to come play the Quad Cities Open.

For reference, this event hasn’t gone by that name since 1985.

“I’m not as organized as I intend to be in the future,” Murray explained.

After a long enough wait, he finally made it, entertaining the fans alongside Points and three amateurs, one of whom sheepishly invited Murray for a post-round beer. Murray, unfortunately, had to go, although he has turned event crashing – be it college parties, kickball games, or engagement photos – into his own cottage industry, so there’s still hope for the rest of you.

For Murray, standard practice while exiting the course was to take a fan offering on the right, sign it while turning to the left, and then chuck it over his head, back in the direction of whoever handed it to him in the first place.

At one point he was confronted with a fan who opened his shirt for an autograph. Murray signed a large “X” across the man’s chest.

“He’s as accommodating as anyone I’ve ever seen,” Peterson said. “He’s been like this all day.”

As for his playing partner, Points and Murray have a successful history together. Points won the AT&T Pebble Beach in 2011, as he and Murray, who were introduced by a mutual friend, teamed to take the pro-am title. Points’ mother has a working theory that Murray loosens up her son on the golf course.

“Well, this is a woman that’s just been released saying these things,” Murray said, “so I think [she] loosened him up quite a bit herself.

“But I think in terms of playing in a pro-am, I think it’s difficult for pros to go out there with amateurs who live and die with every shot, like their game becomes more important than yours when you’re playing for money and your livelihood.”

For his part, Points went out of his way on multiple occasions to laud the 64-year-old actor’s athleticism. Murray has been dealing with some knee issues for the last few years that have kept him from playing his best, but according to Points, “When he hits the ball solid, it’s flushed. It sounds as good as me hitting one – or Tiger Woods hitting one.”

“He always seems to play the hardest holes really well,” Points added, launching into a story about a birdie Murray made on No. 4 thanks to what was described as a 275-yard drive down the right-center of the fairway and a 56-degree wedge.

Just one hole later, with his caddie/driver/bodyguard chauffeuring him around, Murray, the driver and their cart all cleared under a gallery rope, while the clubs attached on back did not.

“They sort of boomeranged and whipped. It could have been a decapitation,” Murray said. “But instead, we’re just so happy to be here having some bottled water.”

One reporter suggested it would have made a great scene for "Caddyshack".

“You sound like the guy who wrote 'Caddyshack II',” Murray replied.

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Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 2:06 pm

New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.

The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.

"Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.

It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.

Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.

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Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.

The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

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13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

“An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”

Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.

Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

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McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.

Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

“I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

“Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.